Read a selection of my love poems

I would know your step

the set of your shoulders

the way you hold your head

if you walked across the horizon

three miles distant

wherever they have horizons

steppes or deserts

I would know your step


I would know your voice

if you stood in a choir of voices

in the world’s biggest choral anthem

some unimaginable allelujah

in the biggest cathedral

on the horizon of a steppe or desert

I would know your voice


I would know your hair

in a curiosity shop of copper

in a chest of chestnuts

in a goldsmith’s workshop

your red gold hair

in a cathedral of copper & gold

on the horizon of a steppe or desert

I would know your hair


I would know the sounds

you make in sleep

the noise of your dreams

if you were the chorus 

of a great cathedral

or the copper in a wire

the curiosity of goldsmiths

on the horizon of a steppe or desert

I would know the sound

From The Yellow House (2017)

All the world is waiting

for something to happen

some day it will

it will be an accident


we wait for the silence to stop

you scuffing the snow

me searching for sandwiches


nobody wants to declare

perhaps come out on the wrong side

we have seen the mountains


always wary of humanity

drag down like fallout

I am suffocating here you cried


oh you have eyebrows 

as delicate as fishbones

winter picked them clean


From The Yellow House (2017)

In darkness we are inflamed

in darkness 

we are inflamed

begin with touch

be led be led

eyes closed heart open

pressed to this 

ship our bed


a noisy gale

salt on the skin

turn by turn

our calls & cries

all hands

pressed to this 

ship our bed


in darkness

we are inflamed

first with whispers

hands & tongues

begin with hands

pressed to this

ship our bed


From The Yellow House (2017)


Going to bed with the snowman

I have gone to bed

with the snowman,

in the dead of night.

I have seen the lights

gleaming briefly off & on


a radiance that could not

be accounted for

by the humour

of the moment, 

or his perishing crystals.


That nothing is forever

is known. & people

live too long these days.

But this I can swear:


there was a cold kind of loving

when I lived with the snowman.


From Mathematics & Other Poems (1997)

How I learned about love



my great-grandfather 

was a Scotsman

a sea-captain

& he roamed the seas

but he met a girl 

in a dockside 

lodging house

& that was the end 

of the sea for him

he washed up on our shores

a bible reader 

a presbyterian

he wore a top hat

& button boots

a stranger in the parish

& his rough scots

& his Hogmanay

& love was his anchor





when my father fell in love

his mother threw him out

she said my mother 

would never be anything 

but an ornament

for the window

the son disinherited

& all that

thirty good acres

& rights to conacre

gone for a woman

he never regretted it

I think of them 

swinging away 

to an old waltz

not touching the floor

they were such 

perfect dancers

& love was their harvest





my father died & my 

mother followed him 

into the ground

three months almost

to the day

it was he who stayed her

she never believed in god

or at least in priests

she starved herself

she died when she was 

already almost gone

such a tiny shift in space

between being & not

it was love that held her

& love that led her away



From The Yellow House (2017)

Illiterate heart

from the Neapolitan of Totò


you schooled

my illiterate heart

to read

to write

above all one word


& nothing more


From The Yellow House (2017)

Garden near Cognac

You are halving an apple & the sun

catches the blade as it tightens onto your thumb.

A sweet spit marks the equator.

You have come through the sunflowers;

there is pollen on the down of your arm.


We arrived here with de Maupassant

& Mauriac in mind – a kind of hesitant

pilgrimage. We read nothing & sleep

in the warm days. Your cherry skin is moist

& shining. It appears we have apostatised.


Remember love, how years ago we drove

up through the Comeraghs in snow.

When we passed the last bush there was no colour,

not even the grey black of a stone. 

That rigorous landscape shaped our lives.


A river divided the valley below

like a knife-mark in white skin.

Snow dusted off the exposed ridges.

There was no room for sentiment,

a momentary lapse of concentration


could have been the death of us,

the old Volkswagen careering down the shale

into the snow. We came to rest at last

near Eas na Machan. Through the windows

we could hear the frozen falls ticking.


That was the country of cold people,

Donncha Rua was buried within sight.

We parted stiff clothing & seamed our skins

clean as a knifeblade on appleskin.

In those cold mountains it was an act of faith.


Here in the welling silent summer

in a garden near Cognac love-making

is not so dangerous. There is no sheer fall,

& our bodies lie as finely separated

as the slit in the shallow skin of your apple.


From Mathematics & Other poems (1997)

Alice falling

Frost is moving on the roof

daylight opening the box

the ticking of morning.


I measure change

in the interval

between the appearance of a drop


and the end of the fall.

Alice is falling

and as she falls she picks things up


she cannot drop them.

Forever is the time

between your sleeping and your waking


before the eyelid opens

I kiss your sleep-softened silence

and we fall together.


From Fahrenheit Says Nothing To Me (2004)